Thrive, Student Edition by Mark Hall {A Review}

From my 11 year old. (Ack! I just realized it won’t be long and I won’t be able to say “my 11 year old”.)

 

This book was amazing! Mr. Hall has a gift for writing to people my age, but I think this book would be great no matter what stage of life you are in.

FIlled with stories, applications, and humor, Mark Hall explores the two sides of faith: Digging Deep into the Word to discover your own faith-based Christianity, and Reaching out to the unbelievers in your community. Because Mr. Hall teaches when we go from “Survival Mode” to “Thrive Mode” only then can we live the life we were made to.

And at the end, there is the Thrive Challenge because when you begin to understand what it means to be an “all-in follower” then maybe it’s time to commit to Dig Deep and Reach Out.

Whether you are new to the faith, or have been a Christian for a long time, this book has something in it for you.

 

We received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

Lights Out by Travis Freeman {A Review}

Travis Freeman was like most 12 year old boys growing up in Corbin, Kentucky. He dreamed about playing football for the Corbin RedHounds, and then the Kentucky Wildcats.

A few days after returning from church camp between his 6th and 7th grade years he awoke with a horrible headache. A headache that wouldn’t stop for almost 10 days.  The end of the headache though was  not the end of his ordeal.

He would soon find himself in the hospital in Lexington, KY while doctors tried feverishly to save his life.

They did.

But at the cost of his eyesight. He was totally blind. 

What about his football dreams? No one plays football blind. How do you know whom to tackle? Where to run? How do you get in the right huddle?

In 8th grade, the football coach put him in as center. He was prepared to be the water boy. But the coach had other plans. His teammates helped him get in position. He would snap the ball and fall (or lean) forward and hopefully land on a defensive player.

The book is written in an easy-conversational style. It is easy to imagine Travis sitting across the table from you, sharing a pot of coffee while he tells you his story.  It is a quick read,  there were a few places I was a little confused.

I found him a little too good to be true. I am not at all saying he’s not saying the complete truth, I found it hard to relate to him personally on a heart level.

If you’ve seen the movie, 23Blast this book, this story inspired that film. This would be the perfect gift for the football player, or just sports fan in your life. It is laced with humor, teaching about our relationship with Jesus. Travis does a masterful job at pointing to Jesus for all the glory.

 

I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

What happens if you spend your days telling others how to have lasting life in Jesus and you become frustrated and disillusioned with your very life? What if you travel and speak to Christians, motivating them to do more with their walk with Christ and you realize you’re all talk and no walk?

Well if you’re Michael Yankoski you write a book about it. You take a year to teach yourself how to stop talking about living a life after death and you start experiencing it. You learn how to take spiritual practices and make them a reality. You spend one year in focused engagement with the very spiritual practices you have been touting.

This book has changed the way I think about many things. It has given me ideas, things to implement in my own life. I’ve read about Michael’s journey through:

  • The practice of attentiveness.

If you’re anything like me, and I’m betting you are, because I’m like you. My world goes a million miles an hour. I feel like I spend too much time trying to play catch up. I can’t focus on any one thing because it all hits me so fast. I’m constantly taking rabbit trails, shouting SQUIRREL! every few steps.  I’ve thought myself the poster child for ADHD. I’ve been convinced I have it. After reading this book, I’m not so sure anymore. I think it’s just life. And we’re all affected and infected.

  • The practice of simplicity.

Not just downsizing, although that plays a part to be sure. But being simple in all areas. Keeping a simple house is good. Getting rid of things you haven’t used in six months or a year, is good. But what about getting rid of some thoughts, behaviors, actions, habits, and grudges?  Can we live a more simple life from the inside out?

  • The practice of still, silent solitude.

Oh yeah. In today’s world that is nearly impossible.  Years ago Bissell vacuum cleaners had a slogan, Life is Messy. Life is messy. But life is also noisy. So noisy and yet we constantly seek to fill it with more noise. We have the tv or radio on for “background noise”. Why? Are we so afraid to be alone with our thoughts and our God?  Yesterday I reacquainted myself with Neil Diamond’s song, Beautiful Noise. I pondered what it meant. It doesn’t seem finished, it seems as if he is singing about a noise but doesn’t tell us what the beautiful noise is. I’m convinced today, it’s life. Life is noisy. But God speaks to us through a still, small voice. Not a shout. What if we took the time to be still enough, quiet enough in the noisiness of life to listen? What if we turned off the tv, the radio, the cd, the phones and just listened?

  • The practice of Sabbath

I am not going to lie. This one probably has the biggest impact on my life. I loved every chapter. Every practice. In the margins on many I have scribbled, DO THIS!!!!, but there was something about this chapter. This practice that hit me between the eyes with a fatal blow. I have implemented this practice and I am so happy I did. I know you’re thinking, “If only I had time to spend a whole day doing whatever I want in total self-indulgent.” Please hear me say, you do. You in fact have 6 days to spend indulging your every wish and whim. Creating a Sabbath is not about self-indulgence or laziness. It’s about asking God how He wants you spend your day with Him. And doing what He says. Some of the things He has told me to do are laundry, dishes, create.

  • The practice of gratitude.

It is the season where we all start thinking about how thankful we are. Facebook will soon explode with people posting what they are thankful for. 30 days of Thanksgiving. Gratitude is being thankful. But it is so much more than that. Gratitude is an attitude of the heart. An attitude that says “I honor you because you have changed me.” “I’m grateful for all you have done for me. For who You have made me.” It’s more than simply saying “Thank you.”

  • The practice of pursuing justice.

This one is tricky. It seems the more we unearth about the injustices of the world, the more we realize we are living unjust lives. Injustice affects every area, every aspect of our life today. I am still pondering this one. But it had a great impact on me.

There are more chapters, if you want to know the other practices, you’ll have to get the book.

I received a free copy of this book, The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

 

Creating Sabbath

Tuesday of this week I read a chapter in a book that touched a chord in me and it resonated…loudly. Like a bell going off in my head.

Does that mean I’m a ding-a-ling?

Just asking.

I’ve been pondering the chapter most of the week. It was on taking a Sabbath. Not necessarily Saturday (which was (and is) THE Sabbath to the Jews), but just a day of rest.  My life it seems has gotten exponentially busier in the past few months.  I just used dictionary.com to be sure I was using exponentially correctly. As it turns out, I’m not. But I’m keeping it there. But you should know I mean it’s gotten a LOT busier, a Lot, a Lot, a LOT.  Most weeks it’s seems we have something we *have* to do every day. Some days, as Tuesday and Wednesday of this week proved, we’re busy and gone all day.

I sat there reading the chapter and wondering what it would be like to take a Sabbath. Take a whole day off, to do no work, not rushing here and there.  At first I scoffed that it wasn’t humanly possible. Not happening. No way. No how. I just couldn’t see a way to make  it happen. The thought though would not leave me. I decided to set aside Wednesday from sun-down to Thursday at sun-down as my Sabbath.

I immediately started little sentence prayers, “How should I spend my Sabbath?” “What would glorify You?”, and “What do You want me to do on my Sabbath?”  For the next 48 hours every time I thought about this, I shot one of those prayer heaven-ward. And waited. I waited for an answer. The answer I was sure was to come.

The answer did come but not on my time schedule. I wanted to know the answer before Thursday morning.  But that is when the answer came.

I should have been smarter than I am and prepared on Wednesday for my Sabbath. I should have spent the day cleaning, cooking and just preparing everything in my life, heart and home for the next 24 hours of being essentially “off the grid”. But I didn’t. I could say it’s because I left the house at 8:30 Wednesday morning and did not return home until 5:30 that afternoon. I could. And apparently I just did. But I could have somehow squeezed in the preparation. But the things of life crowded out my ability to realize a Sabbath would take some preparation.

And isn’t a Sabbath really a time to not focus on things that need done?

I did make my supper Wednesday before sundown, and I dined in style. Sitting in the living room recliner eating will watching the final two episodes of Season 4 of Downton Abbey. Still pondering Sabbath and praying how I was to spend it.

Thursday morning I was completing my daily Bible reading (using YouVersion’s Bible in 90 Days plan), then I checked my email, turned on my computer and read a bit on facebook. In the book I had been reading the author said he put away all electronics, no computer, no phone, no watch, no nothing. I reasoned  that just because he did it didn’t mean I had to do it the same way.

Then I watched a video someone posted. And God hit me. Smacked me between the eyes with a near fatal blow. At the conclusion of the video, I shared it then I turn off everything. My phone went off. My laptop went off.

I obeyed. God had been giving me a word for my day. It made no sense to me at all. I still wonder why I had that word. But the girls and I spent a lovely time at a local coffee shop. I know I know. You’re thinking I’m confusing the voice of God with my own desires. I can assure you I’m not.  This is not a coffee shop I go to regularly. I have coffee at home. And a boastful and proud as it will sound, I’m more enamored with my own ability to make a killer cup of java than any coffee shop in town.

The girls wanted to walk across to a craft store next. We wandered aimlessly…oh wait. They wandered as those on a mission, I wandered aimlessly, praying, “Now what? Now how do I glorify You on my Sabbath?”

It wasn’t until we were walking home that the next word came to me.

Create.

Create? Yeah right! I am not Elohim. I am not a Creator. I’m not even entirely sure I’m all that creative. (Which now that I voice that out-loud, I realize what a smack in God’s face that statement is. We were created in His image. He is The Creative Creator. To say one is not creative is both ludicrous and stupid.)

At home I “created” another cup of coffee. I “created” order out of the chaos that was known as my kitchen. Praying still, “create what?”

I spent some time at my dining room table creating gratitude markers. Things that would hopefully bless a few hearts.

I created time with my oldest child. We giggled our way through Brewster’s Millions, sat in awe of God through Propaganda videos on youtube.

I find myself in awe of the day I had. I do not personally believe a Sabbath is a day to indulge ourselves. We’re already too self-indulgent. The Sabbath is not a day to do whatever makes us happy.  I find myself, instead of feeling the urgency to now accomplish everything I didn’t do yesterday. I don’t find myself feeling I am farther behind. I find I’m feeling more content. More peace. More joy. More productive. More.

I’m feeling more.

I’m looking forward with anticipation to next Wednesday at sundown. I’m longing for another Thursday Sabbath.

My week.

Hey it’s only Tuesday and I’m already longing for this week to be just a distant memory in my rearview mirror. No joke. It hasn’t been all bad, but it could use some betterment.

I’ve come face-to-face with my own mortality.

Sounds more than a little ominous, doesn’t it? Well relax, I haven’t almost died or anything remotely like that.  I’ve merely realized my life is rapidly moving along.

I’m not as young as I once was.

I’m not as old as I’m going to be either.

It’s nice that way. Until you realize:

I’ve never been this old before.

Such nostalgia usually only hits me in March around my birthday. But it’s not March and it’s not my birthday.

I’ve been noticing more and more lately, especially in the past few weeks severe joint pain. Mostly in my fingers.  On my right hand. I know I already have arthritis in my legs, so I am safely concluding that this is merely more arthritis. Yay me.

This morning I took a lovely trip to the optometrist’s office. Where they dilated my eyes, blew puffs of air into my peepers and took a rather invasive photo of each eyeball. Well actually they took three photos of the inside of each eyeball.

And I paid them to do it all, thankyouverymuch.

The end result?

My eyes are bad. Like I didn’t already know that. I was 17 before ever setting foot into an eye doctor’s office. When my first pair of glasses came in, I was astounded at how trees and grass really looked. I was astonished to find my pastor really did have a face.

Lately, my pastor has been once again, losing face, and the open Bible in my lap keeps getting picked up and moved within inches of my nose. And the tv screen is awfully blurry when I look up from my crocheting to see the latest football score.

Any guesses what the illustrious optometrist told me today?

Bifocals are in my immediate future.

Arthritis and bifocals at the same time. Aren’t I one lucky girl??

Mr. FullCup is pushing the envelope to the next decade of life, I’m barely in the middle of the decade we’re both in. He has no arthritis and no need of bifocals.  Again I ask, aren’t I one lucky girl?

No, really. Don’t answer that.

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford {A Review}

When Ruth and Michael first see the Sea House on the remote Scottish island of Harris, they immediately purchase it. Despite it’s rough condition they have fallen in love with it. They start to dream dreams about the house, it’s history, and it’s future. They can see it be operated as a bed and breakfast.

As they work to refinish it they find, buried in the floorboards a tiny skeleton. Who was it? What had happened to it? Why was it buried in the floorboards instead of in the cemetery?

Ruth is determined to find out more about the people who were living in the house when the skeleton was placed there. She is driven to learn all she can about the poor baby, in hopes that it will help settle her own fears.

Growing up without a father and a mother who passes away when Ruth was a young girl her life wasn’t easy. It was thought, and reported to Ruth that her mother committed suicide. But did she?

This book is riveting and masterfully told. Elisabeth Gifford is a masterful-storyteller. She has written articles for The Times and The Independent and has a diploma in creative writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in creative writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston on Thames, a suburb of London, but spend as much time as possible in the Hebrides.

Elisabeth handles tough issues with kid gloves. She writes in The Sea House about abuse, depression and post-traumatic stress, issues we all know about even if we personally have not experienced them.

The book was riveting, however, at times it was not an easy book to read. I read it at first with the mindset of it being written from a Christian perspective, much like most of the books I read for review. There were times though, I wasn’t sure. I would recommend this book highly with one caveat, there are a couple of instances where some crude language is used. I believe this is thought crude mostly on the part of Americans, in other parts of the world it would not be so. There is also some evolutionary phrases and thoughts.

If you want a good story of  loss, love, hope, and redemption, this is a great book!

Read below to learn more about the book and it’s author.

Don’t miss The Sea House, a stunning fiction debut from the UK. Set in a house on the windswept coast of the Outer Hebrides, Elisabeth Gifford‘s haunting tale effortlessly bridges a gap of more than a century. Adeptly interweaving two tales involving residents of the titular house, Gifford sets up an absorbing mystery revolving around local lore and myths about mermaids, selkies, and sealmen. Stretching seamlessly back and forth through time, layers upon layers of secrets are slowly and effectively peeled away in this evocative debut (Booklist).



Celebrate with Elisabeth by entering her Kindle giveaway!

E.Gifford, The Sea House Giveaway

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 19th. Winner will be announced October 20th at Elisabeth’s Blog.

seahouse-enterbanner

Watch the trailer:

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose review. All opinions are my own.

The Case For a Creator: Student Edition {A review}

The student edition of Lee Strobel’s Case For A Creator is a small book, only  98 pages but don’t let its size fool you! With interviews with Jonathan Wells, Robin Collins, Michael Behe, and more, along with studies on Cosmology, Physics, Biochemistry, and Biological Information, this little book will lead you on a compelling adventure to unveil the truth about our universe. It’s challenging and well thought-out, with lists of resources and detailed notes. I highly recommend it to any junior high, high school, or college student who is looking for some earth shaking evidence.

A word of warning: Don’t try to read this after eight o’clock pm! The scientific proofs and interviews are mind-blowing during the day and mind-boggling at night.

Mr. Strobel also uses Scripture to back up his claims, which I appreciate. I like that the book is his journey from atheist to Christian, so most of it is showing you his attempts to disprove Intelligent Design–and it didn’t work.

So students, go pick up a copy! It seriously will amaze you!

(My 14 year old daughter read this book and this is her review of The Case For A Creator Student edition by Lee Strobel. You can find this at your local Christian bookstore or online retailers.)

We received a free copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.